News

How Campus Housing Can Meet LGBTQIA+ Student Needs

When a growing population of LGBTQIA+ students requests safe, equitable on-campus housing, universities are increasingly faced with the question of how best to meet their needs. Housing officers across the country are taking this issue much more seriously, in light of the bullying and isolation that often occurs in unsupervised residential settings.

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Is Your School Storm Ready?

SCHOOL EMERGENCY ASSESSMENT AND PLANNING

Keeping your students and faculty safe during extreme weather events.

Since 2010, there have been over 40 tornado events across the United States resulting in close to 750 deaths and many more people injured. Two recent outbreaks in particular, in Enterprise, Alabama, in 2007 and Moore, Oklahoma, in 2013, pushed the need for increased school building evaluation methods and more proactive design considerations. In response, FEMA and the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management collaborated on a series of training seminars to help architects, engineers, and emergency planning personnel better assess the preparedness of schools for extreme weather events. These two agencies developed Safe Schools 101, a two-day workshop providing both information and usable tools for the evaluation and design of safer, protected areas within schools.

SAFE SCHOOLS 101
Part one of the Safe Schools workshop focused on the general characteristics of tornados and provided detailed information on the effects and hazards of high-wind situations. Wind both pulls and pushes on buildings and even the lowest scaled tornados have wind speeds exceeding many design and construction standards for withstanding stress conditions. Today thousands of existing schools across all states offer little to no protection against these extreme forces. FEMA defines five levels of protection for weather-related emergencies (see list, next page), and most schools currently are at the lowest level — a basic tornado refuge area deemed safe by school personnel. A clear and consistent method of assessing and evaluating existing schools was shared during part two of the workshop to be used by design professionals and acted upon by each school to raise their level of protection.

HOW ARE SCHOOL BUILDINGS EVALUATED FOR SAFETY?
Part of this evaluation method is a checklist for comparing different areas of potential refuge in a building. General knowledge of building construction methods, an intense review of the construction documents if available, and an on-site investigation of the actual building help in completing the checklist and are a part of the overall assessment. A report is then generated, reviewing all the areas investigated and selecting the best possible refuge area or areas along with recommendations to further increase the protection level to a hardened room or area.

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Conscious Design: An Architect’s Duty

Is sustainable design really feasible for clients? Listen to what our LEED Accredited Professional, Christian Garcia has to say about finding the right solutions for clients that lead to conscious design.

Happy #EarthDay đźŚŽ

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Company Culture

When you walk into a store or a restaurant you instantly gain a sense of the company’s unique identity due to the culture it has cultivated. The company’s shared beliefs, assumptions, and values affect everything from the floorplan to the particular vernacular employees use. This principle transcends all industries. How co-workers interact and work together shapes the company’s character and personality for better or worse. 

With the job market full of opportunities people are no longer considering jobs based on competitive pay and benefits alone, they want to join a company with a positive work culture. We can all name a few attributes that make work-cultures positive or negative: Respect, Transparency, Fun, and Challenging or Demanding, Outdated, Micromanaging, and Unethical. It’s the shared values and normal behavior of employees that shape the culture over time and make it unique. 

With the job market changing our team took some time to reflect on the culture at KSQ Design and identified five essential values that shape our company.

Creativity. Probably more than anything else, creativity is the common link connecting the people behind KSQ Design. Our team members are always thinking outside the box to solve design challenges. 

“We have a variety of projects between our New York and Tula Office. It’s a really great learning experience and stretches our creativity working in a variety of markets.” – Andrea Arrieta, Interior Design I

Collaboration. We really do believe a good idea can come from anyone and if you don’t know the answer, just ask!

“The building we’re in allows for us to be more collaborative. Even if I am not working on a particular project I have the opportunity to listen to what is going on in the different stages of the project. I can keep learning or if I have a question about construction administration or documentation I know I can ask anyone.” -Christian Garcia, Associate 

Engaging. Strong relationships with frequent communication help our team remain interested. 

“I like working with the people at KSQ. I find the staff to all be very friendly, supportive, and competent. I have a lot of trust and confidence in the firm’s leadership. They are also really good at letting you know you are appreciated.” – Douglas Kay, 

Flexibility. We recognize that work is only one of the many facets of our team’s life. 

“As a mom of a four-year-old who demands a lot of time – flexibility is really important to me. KSQ Design gives me the flexibility I need with my hours to allow our family to remain central.” – Christian Garcia, Associate 

Diversity. We believe that our workforce should reflect the vast diversity of the communities we serve.

“The diversity within our firm gives me a global perspective of both design and life. Our different backgrounds, talents, customs, and the unique traditions we get to share have been an important part of my personal and professional growth.” – Allison Cyrus, Marketing Coordinator

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We Are Growing!

Our firm has experienced some exciting growth this year! In the past six months, KSQ Design has hired five new professionals to join the team and accommodate the firm’s growth. We’d like to introduce you to them, announce even more career opportunities at KSQ, and invite qualified candidates to apply.

New Staff Members are:

  • Blair Stori-Johnson, NCARB, NOMA, Project Architect
  • Tori Cox, Interior Designer
  • Shaun Snyder, Project Designer
  • Yara Al botros, Project Manager

Our Current Career Opportunities Include:

  • K-12 Project Manager (NY)
  • Project Architect (NY)
  • Interior Designer (OK)
  • Junior Interior Designer (OK)

We encourage you to apply through our career page today! Check out more about our firm and its culture by exploring our website.

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Long Island City’s Newest Mixed-Use Development

Construction is complete on 23-20 Jackson Avenue, a nine-story mixed-use building in Long Island City, Queens. Developed by The Vorea Group and designed by KSQ Design, the 85,851-square-foot building offers retail space, offices, and a 72-room hotel operated by San Francisco-based hotelier Sonder Corp. The area has seen a lot of development in recent years with luxury apartment buildings being added to the neighborhood. The brick facade, assembled by King Contracting Group, celebrates the area’s history while making a statement among other new developments.

To read more about this project and hear what others are saying, click here to access the latest YIMBY article.

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Investing in Future Designers

We believe in the transformative power of community. In all that we do, we strive to make vibrant communities possible. One of the ways we strive to make strong communities is through our shadow program for K-12 students.

Throughout the program, we educate students on design principles while showing them what day-to-day life in the industry looks like. Our goal is to educate students on the future career possibilities within our industry and inspire students through design.  

Earlier this month we had a shadow student from Jenks Public Schools visit with our staff about the interior design process. As a Senior in High School Abby is contemplating pursuing a career in interior design once she graduates. 

Abby shadowed our staff for two months, following our interiors department around. She sat through meetings, learned how to navigate a construction set, and even attended site walk-throughs. 

One of the amazing parts of this program is how the students shape us. They remind us how passionate, curious, and eager the younger generations are to learn and inspire us to keep fueling the flame ourselves.

We’re always eager to share our industry expertise with more students like Abby. Please reach out to us through the contact page if you or someone you know would be interested in shadowing our office.

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Four Projects Win Architecture Design Awards

TULSA, Okla. — This past Friday KSQ Design was awarded three People’s Choice Awards and one Merit Award at the annual AIA Eastern Oklahoma Design & Honor Awards Party. KSQ’s client submissions won the most People’s Choice Awards of any other architecture firm.

The Foundry at Colorado State University,  North Dining Hall at Oklahoma State University, and The Jane Residence received People’s Choice Awards in the Interior Design, Higher Education, and Residential Architecture categories. 

Meanwhile, The Village Center at the University of Colorado Boulder won the Merit Award in the Higher Education for KSQ Design. The Merit Award recognizes projects that clearly demonstrate a level of design that exemplifies superior achievements.

The annual awards banquet recognizes firms within the region that exhibit design excellence in specific categories. The categories for 2021 included: Adaptive Reuse, Commercial Architecture, Large Commercial Architecture, Interior Architecture, Residential Architecture, Healthcare Architecture, Higher Education Architecture, and Excellence in Craft.

 

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“Turning Dirt” for ORU’s New Library and Research Center

TULSA, Okla. — Oral Roberts University broke ground on its new library and Holy Spirit Research Center Wednesday, October 20th. 

Named after ORU alum and long-time donor, J.D. McKean, the library will provide students with world-class access to knowledge and resources around the globe. Features of the library include multi-media stations, study spaces, classroom areas, book collections, archives, and an expansive digital database. 

It’s an exciting time for one of Tulsa’s Higher Education institutions, as the library is the second project in a series of four new buildings on campus. Click here to find out more about this project and what is to come.

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Yorktown High School Celebrates New Collegiate-Level Gymnasium

NEW YORK, NY —Yorktown High School in Yorktown Heights New York hosted an opening ceremony this past Friday to celebrate its new gymnasium. After years of excellence, the school now has an athletic space as impressive as the athletes who compete there.

KSQ Design performed a complete renovation of the building. The renovation project enhanced the functionality of the HVAC system by adding air conditioning to the space that previously did not have the capacity. The mechanical system was designed to be highly efficient with HEPA filters to correspond to our current environment.

The collegiate-level athletic center includes all-new bleachers adorned with the school’s logo and contemporary digital signage. Other modernizations included all-new concessions and an outdoor dining area. KSQ and the project team made intentional design decisions in both function and aesthetics to create an innovative athletic space that will support the school for generations.

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River West Choice Neighborhoods

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum celebrates River West – the largest affordable housing project in Tulsa History.
 
We’re thankful for the visionaries, planners, dedicated leaders and generous donors who paved the path to make this project possible. Let’s continue to create strong, vibrant communities together!
 
Watch the full video here.
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Gateway First Bank Breaks Ground

Gateway First Bank breaks ground on their new flagship banking center. Located on Main Street Jenks, the new banking center will offer more than just the traditional bank services including a multi-purpose space where clients and community members can meet. The design incorporates the use of modern materials and glass to create an open and inviting atmosphere for guests.

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Byram Hills High School Theater Renovation

The Byram Hills High School Theatre is approximately 8,500 sf and is located entirely within the interior core of the footprint of the school. KSQ Design performed a re-construction project for the purpose of replacing and/or upgrading seating, interior finishes, lighting, etc. Improvements were made to make the space ADA accessible and addressed the acoustical qualities of the theatre. The scope of the work also included the replacement of an existing roof top mechanical unit (in-kind).

 

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River West

Our architectural design team created a fly through for phase one of River West, a multi-family mixed-use neighborhood, to share with all of you. Phase one includes 74 of the 460 units that are being designed, and built on the west bank of the Arkansas River in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The River West neighborhood is scheduled to be a six phase project. You can learn about the Choice Neighborhood’s vision here.

River West - Apartment Interior

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Texas Christian University Ranked #3 by the Princeton Review

Texas Christian University (TCU) is ranked #3 on the Princeton Review’s “Best College” Dorms list and was featured on the Today Show! You can watch it here. Great work TCU!

 

“Thank you for all you have done to design and build beautiful buildings!  We try to match your passion for space with our passion for program to create an incredible experience for students.  Thank you for your commitment to our success!  You make TCU so proud!”   – Kathy

 

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Park(ing) Day Golden Meter Winners

Thank you to the City of Tulsa, the Downtown Coordinating Council, and other community partners for putting on this awesome event! We are looking forward to 2020.

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Student Housing Master Plans: Where, When and Why Your Campus Needs One

Student housing has evolved significantly in the last generation, and campuses are more aware than ever of the growing discrepancy between contemporary new facilities and their older, more traditional stock.  As they examine the challenge of facility updates, many housing administrators are daunted by construction expense, schedule, and disruption in bed count.  And while they know, inherently, that more capacity is needed, the point may be difficult to argue to university administrators.  What kind of housing do we need?  Is our current model the right mix?  Would upper-division students really return to campus if we had the capacity? How could we handle bed loss if we must take a hall offline for renovations?

At KSQ, our team has helped many campuses answer these questions with a Housing Master Plan.  Many universities use campus master planning to strategize growth, but these broad-scope documents don’t always include plans specific to housing development.  Fewer still include the steps needed to schedule, phase, and fund housing construction or renovation.

What Is A Housing Master Plan?

A Housing Master Plan is a long-range planning document – typically covering a 10- to 15-year period – that provides a roadmap for programmatic and physical changes to enhance housing, as well as residential and campus life. It typically includes the following kinds of information to guide the University in reinvesting in its housing system over the plan period:

  • Target populations to house, and preferred types of housing (unit types, mix and number) to accommodate those populations.
  • Assessment of existing physical conditions and recommendations for renovations to address deferred maintenance / capital renewal and, as necessary, to modernize and upgrade buildings to make them suitable for the next decade and beyond.
  • Recommendations for new housing to address any current or anticipated deficiencies in inventory.
  • Recommendations for other enhancements to campus housing, and to residential life programming to create a more vibrant and engaging on-campus experience.
  • Financial requirements to implement changes called out in the Housing Master Plan.

A housing planner can also examine the off-campus market to determine availability and pricing of current options and compare those findings with on-campus housing options for best compatibility and most fair and effective pricing.

Why Does My Campus Need One?

If your campus experiences a significant change in enrollment, on-campus residents, housing inventory, or administrative philosophy, it might be time for a housing master plan:

  • Is there a change in enrollment? A larger student body might require more housing.  A drop in enrollment might be influenced by a housing inventory that isn’t competing with peer institutions.
  • Is there a wide range of housing conditions? The contrast between new facilities and older ones might create the perception of “haves” and “have-nots” on campus.  A housing master plan can create a strategy for renovations that provide a rich university experience across a range of student budgets.
  • Are residents satisfied with their housing experience? A housing master plan can reveal a program’s strengths and weaknesses, and provide guidance for improving the overall program.  Further, it can introduce trends in residential life that attract and retain the current generation of students.
  • Is there a change in philosophy from campus leadership? If administrators want to achieve tier-one status within the state, or create a residential campus, a housing master plan can identify best strategies to achieve new residential goals.

How is the Plan Developed?

Developing a successful Housing Master Plan usually involves a multi-step process:

  • Market Research – the team conducts interviews, focus groups, and surveys to gather comprehensive data on current housing conditions. This information is concrete, gathering students’ ages, years in college, academic majors, etc.  It is also abstract, examining what students like and don’t like about their current housing arrangements.  The planning team compares these findings with similar information gathered from peer institutions, as well as the local off-campus housing market.
  • Facilities Assessment – the team reviews existing residence halls and dining facilities to inform recommendations for upgrades. These recommendations range from programmatic needs for social and study spaces, to structural and code-required upgrades necessary for occupancy.
  • Development of a Housing Program – the final document includes an overall goal for the amount, types, and locations of housing needed on campus, in comparison to the current inventory.
  • Financial Modeling – the team examines existing revenue and expense information, along with construction cost estimates, to create different budgeting scenarios for future construction and renovation projects.

A recent exercise at the University of North Texas revealed a vibrant and loyal residential community.  It also uncovered many opportunities to improve student experience through facility upgrades.  And although the campus administrators understood the team’s recommendations, they were concerned with losing capacity during significant renovation projects.  Moreover, administrators were unsure of the best way to fund construction, balancing resources on hand with assuming too much debt.

The planning team developed two interactive documents that proved valuable to campus users.  The first was a phasing schedule, listing bed counts for each hall, before and after construction and recommended renovations.  With this tool, end users can explore different phasing options to determine a logical order for projects.  Bringing a new hall online at the same time another is closed for updates minimizes bed loss.  Similarly, the schedule can be reconfigured to avoid excessive construction in a single area of campus.

The second document is an interactive budgeting tool.  With it, campus users can explore different funding scenarios for projects, to see the financial impacts of, for example, a slightly different interest rate, or an adjustment in room rates.  Users can also adjust debt-to-cash ratios in their hypothetical budgets to determine best scenarios for affordability.

What Else Should I Know?

Effective planning is comprehensive.  A strong planning team will need to meet with representatives from Student Affairs, Facilities, Transportation, Budget, Dining, and Admissions – just to name a few critical departments.  It’s also quite common to begin a discussion with one department and identify three more to provide valuable information.

Effective planning takes time.  It’s not unusual for a comprehensive Housing Master Plan to develop over the course of an academic year, but this process can be impacted profoundly by schedule organization among all the different stakeholders.  Information comes from a range of campus departments, represented by very busy people.  Scheduling these people separately is difficult, and scheduling them all together is very difficult!

At the end of the process, a strong housing master plan will provide guidance for development to take your campus through the next several years – and provide the richest student experience possible.

 

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Creating a home for LGBTQ at Stony Brook University.

Our team recently had the opportunity to present our latest project for Stony Brook University at the annual ACPA conference held in Houston March 11-14. Not only did we showcase the story of the new LGBTQ* Center on the SBU campus, we were joined by Dr. Robert Schoenberg, the recently retired director of the Penn LGBT Center at the University of Pennsylvania, one of the very first centers like this in the nation.

From left: Dr. Robert Schoenberg, U Penn (retired); Armand and Monica; Dallas Bauman, SBU; Tom Hier, Biddison Hier

The presentation also covered the history of LGBTQ Centers on university campuses. An interesting fact is that only six percent of colleges and universities currently have an LGBTQ center on their campus, adding up to approximately 246 such centers in all. We gave attendees some critical factors to consider if they are planning one for their campus:

Keys to Creating an LGBTQ Center on Your Campus:

  1. Consider your campus context: is it more liberal or conservative? Limited or accessible funding?
  2. Can you identify a campus champion? Finding and empowering the right person is key to gaining momentum.
  3. Do you understand the planning process? Talking with architects or other institutions who have launched successful centers will give your team an idea of what to expect.
  4. What are your cultural goals? What culture do you want to create? Stating your mission, vision and values is key to helping guide the process.
  5. What are your programmatic goals? What types of activity do you envision for the space?
  6. Can you enlist outside experts? Hiring a planner and/or architect is often needed to bring your vision to reality.

KSQ’s design team created a concept called “the nest” to guide decisions for the Stony Brook space. A feeling of warmth, acceptance, safety and home were some of the guiding principles.

This “nest” concept board created by the interiors team at KSQ helped to set the tone for the new Center.

 

At Stony Brook, a former 2,400 square-foot dining space provides a visible presence and a central location for LGBTQ and other groups to connect with peers, mentors and the services and resources available at SBU. A student lounge, individual and group study, social, lecture and meeting spaces as well as offices and gender-neutral restroom facilities are included in the new space that opened in early March 2018.

Our team was honored to be part of the process of creating a new home for the vibrant LGBTQ community at Stony Brook University. We know how much impact a space can have on creating and fostering community–it’s why we do what we do!

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Exploring the Back-to-Basics Student Housing Trend

Current student housing trends indicate that more basic, affordable housing is back at the top of demand for value-conscious students.  That’s great news all around, and not simply for the reduction of student debt. Major news outlets like The Atlantic have also conveyed interesting stories on the new trend towards a back-to-basics student housing approach and why it’s catching on from coast to coast.

Academic Focus. Quiet study nooks with white boards and ample charging spots are the new amenities feature.

 

Construction cost.  During the early 2000’s and recession, campuses enjoyed low interest rates and even lower construction costs.  At the same time, many families discovered that they could purchase devalued and foreclosed homes near campus, for affordable housing and potential returns after their students left college.  Most universities’ construction rush included luxury amenities – such as recreational pools, climbing walls, fitness facilities, and gaming spaces – to attract students back to campus. Today, facility costs per square foot are back on the rise.  Expanding campuses now find that luxe amenities of the last decade simply don’t fit in this year’s construction budget. 

Maintenance cost.  Even after the building is complete, it costs more to heat, cool, light, and clean those amenity spaces, too.  Removing superfluous building area reduces its maintenance budget, not just the initial construction cost.  And, of course, amenity spaces are generally non-revenue-generating, so reducing those spaces preserves more of a building’s revenue stream for covering debt service and other fixed expenses.

Student Experience.  The newest wave of students is more academically focused than their early-2000s counterparts.  Even in off-campus, student-specific apartments, developers notice that lounges remain empty until they replace the pool and foosball tables with printers, data connections, and large tables for groups to work.  One theory postulates that the newest college-goers are among the first offspring of Generation X, the cynical latchkey kids who still see merit in their college days of Punk and Grunge, and who know the challenge of graduating into a recession with college debt.  They don’t mind putting their students in smaller, more cost-effective rooms. From a design point of view, the trend toward smaller student units allows for more square footage in common areas, encouraging students to leave their rooms and socialize in ways other than Snap Chat. Traditional style efficiency is not just affordable – it builds community, social skills, and grit among its residents.

Private Life. Less square footage in both suite and traditional style rooms brings down student rental rates and provides opportunities for developing active common spaces.

 

 

 

 

The Next Generation of Traditional.   While community style housing enjoys a renaissance, it also has a fresh look.  Bathrooms are smaller, to serve banks of four to six rooms at a time.  New designs and new thinking about bathroom layouts include individual shower spaces, with dressing areas and lockable doors, to protect student privacy.   Even community-style bathrooms are getting a fresh look – disaggregating “public functions” around sink areas (e.g., brushing teeth, combing hair), from the private functions of showering and toileting in enclosed stalls.  This approach facilitates community around daily grooming functions while providing all students with the necessary privacy, addressing interests in gender neutral facilities, etc.  Lounge and study spaces are much more prevalent, with a young, contemporary flair to invite students to socialize.  Some facilities intentionally provide stronger wireless signals in public spaces than in student rooms, specifically to encourage activity there.  “Community Kitchens” have evolved into large, lively gathering areas for groups to convene and cook together.  Finally, corridor space itself is construed to allow for gradual interaction, with small areas for apprehensive or shy students to sit and observe larger group activities before joining in.

Today’s incoming freshman and their parents are more aware of rising college costs than perhaps ever before. Universities are responding with options that allow students of all means to find comfortable housing solutions—with the pared-down housing (both new and renovation) often becoming the rooms in highest demand on campus.

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